AIB boss defends €30,000 loans for Euro 2016 fans
The boss of AIB has defended the bank's move to offer loans of up to €30,000 to football fans going to the Euros in France.
CEO Bernard Byrne said that only those able to meet the repayments would get the loans, with most borrowers set to take out small amounts.
The bank has been accused of reckless lending because it is offering three-hour approvals and drawdowns of loans of up to €30,000 to fans attending Euro 2016 in the summer.
Mr Byrne denied his bank was being irresponsible: "It's a very poor reading of what we're doing.
"We offer personal loans, from €1,000 to €30,000 and what we've said is: we're a bank, we lend money to people and if people are interested in going to the Euros, you can apply for a personal loan from us and it's totally based on repayment capacity and if you can afford the loan."
He insisted that the loans, which the bank says can be approved and drawn down in just three hours, were not a sign of out-of-control lending.
"So there is nothing, this is not some bonanza. It's simply us saying that we do personal loans. That's what we do as a bank. So if you have the affordability, then the purpose of the loan is your issue."
His comments came as one travel agent launched packages for fans to see Ireland's three group games in France for less than €2,000.
Marathon Sports has published details of what it called "early bird" prices that include flights and airport transfers, but not official match tickets. The three-match package for June costs €1,989 per person.
But Michael Kilcoyne of the Consumers' Association questioned why AIB was offering loans of up to €30,000.
"This sends out the wrong signals. The bad old days are coming back again. We are heading back to reckless lending," the deputy chairman of the consumer lobby group said.
He said there was a major risk people would be tempted to borrow too much and then would be unable to repay what they owe.
Repayments on a €30,000 loan over three years would come close to €1,000 a month. The interest rate is just short of 10pc, with the length of the loans between one and five years.
Labour TD John Lyons questioned why the bank was offering such big loans to those hoping to back the Boys in Green.
Football experts said the Euro 2016 tournament in France was set to be more expensive than the last one in Poland. This is because fans will have to travel from Paris, on to Bordeaux then to Lille for Ireland's group games.
But the cost of supporting the Boys in Green is very unlikely to come anywhere near €30,000, even for a family, the experts said.